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Cheer Pros Weigh In: Why Mentoring & Networking Matter

Cheer Pros Weigh In: Why Mentoring & Networking Matter

Intrigued by our story on mentoring and networking and its growing importance in the all-star industry? Hear testimonials from three cheer professionals who swear by making the connection:

“I make it a point each year to attend as many conferences as I can. These conferences allow me to learn from others’ experiences and ways they’ve dealt with certain situations. I believe that attendance at professional and social events has the ability to greatly raise a business’ profile. I have found most industry leaders to be open, honest and really helpful! I wouldn’t hesitate to contact anyone I admired.”

—Lindsay Balent, Maryland All Stars

“Today, with all the social media, I find it amazing how there is a vast variety of ideas that are exchanged.  You would think after being in business all these years you would know everything. All gym owners face the same challenges every day and we are here to help each other, grow our industry and help keep each other sane.”

—Karen McKinley, All Starz Gymnastics & Cheerleading

“Networking is the only way we as an industry can grow. Most coaches and gym owners are too busy when at competitions to ‘talk shop’ with each other, so (conferences) are crucial for getting to know the gym owners and coaches in your area. I have gotten everything from layouts for running two teams at once on a mat to marketing tips while talking with other owners. We aren’t fighting against each other; we are trying to make all-star cheer the choice that athletes choose over [other sports]. Once owners realize this and start playing nice, they will be able to see how much of a resource their fellow owners can be!”

—Cari Ann Bulzone, Infiniti Elite Athletics

Make the Connection: Why Mentoring & Networking Matter

Make the Connection: Why Mentoring & Networking Matter

Love the new USASF junior coaches’ training curriculum? Thank Courtney Kania-Young of Ohio Extreme All-Stars, whose idea sparked the initiative—with a little help from her mentor, Orson Sykes of Twist & Shout. 

Hungry for better safety/emergency initiatives? You’ll be appreciative of the work being done by Houston Elite’s Joshua Johnson (mentored by Ann Lehrman) and Karrie Tumelson (mentored by Debbie Love). Johnson’s proposal for Standardized Emergency Action Plans and Tumelson’s recommendations for Universal Safety Standards for the warm-up room will soon be implemented at USASF events during the 2014-2015 season.

These efforts are part of “Leadership USASF: Mentoring Leaders” program, which started in 2011 under Courtney Smith-Pope and continues under Karen Wilson. Each “class” of 12 finalists is selected by the National Advisory Board to participate in this yearlong program and implement new initiatives that they feel are needed in the industry—with the guidance of a high-profile mentor.

It’s all part of an increasing spirit of collaboration and networking permeating the industry, both online and off. For instance, more than 1800 gym owners and cheer professionals are connecting and sharing inside intel and advice on the All-Star Gym Association (ASGA) private Facebook page. No topic is off-limits—from pesky parents to legality questions to questionable vendors. Platinum Athletics coach Kyle Gadke is one of its many active members and testifies it’s been his gym’s “strongest year to date,” thanks in large part to ideas gleaned from the group.

For instance, at last year’s ASGA meeting in Chicago, he was inspired by Ultimate Athletics’ “team shifts” two weeks after tryouts—an approach they’ve implemented at Platinum with great results. The long-time Level 2/Level 5 coach has also used ASGA advice to improve his own Level 1 coaching skills. “I’d never coached Level 1 and didn’t know the rules; thanks to ASGA, I learned how to coach a back walkover,” he laughs. Gadke also relies on his virtual contacts for feedback on competition routines: “If I’m gearing up for a Varsity event, I can talk to ASGA friends and have them evaluate a video to see what we need to improve on.”

Fellow ASGA member Stephanie Kennedy agrees. Since her gym, Panther Cheer Athletics, is based in Richmond (a suburb of Vancouver, BC), she says it can be easy to feel isolated and out of touch with the rest of the industry. The ASGA group helps her stay plugged in. “I’m overwhelmed by the amount of support I’ve received by other gym owners and their willingness to share information—everything from lesson plans and videos to business forms,” says Kennedy. “Gym owners need to know the knowledge is out there, and making those connections is the key to growing your business.”

Like Gadke, Kennedy has also made invaluable contacts at cheer conferences. It was at the Varsity Gym Owners Conference in Las Vegas that she and PCA co-owner Dawn Silver first connected with Midwest Cheer Elite’s Tanya Roesel, whom later became an invaluable resource as a business/marketing consultant—helping their gym boost revenue via a hip-hop program along with providing technique and safety training.

Working with Roesel was highly inspiring for the her, Silver and the PCA staff, says Kennedy: “Sharing ideas and connecting with other gym owners give you a sense of validation that you are doing it right, just like the big gyms.”

-Vicky Choy and Jen Jones Donatelli

Visit our blog Thursday for testimonials from cheer pros who strongly believe in the powering of mentoring and networking.

 

 

A Day in the Life: Les Stella

A Day in the Life: Les Stella

Get a glimpse into the day-to-day life of USASF’s Les Stella (when he’s not on the road, that is).

5:00 am: Up and at ‘em! I usually start my day with prayer and quiet time, and then it’s off for a barefoot run.

7:00 am: Time for a breakfast—usually eggs and fruit, or sometimes a smoothie. We use a Vitamix blender for all types of great smoothies. We also try to eat breakfast as a family and can pull this off pretty often.

7:30 am: I bring my two sons to school and head into traffic for the 45-minute commute. This is another good time to listen to some podcasts on ministries. It keeps me from getting frustrated with other drivers (most of the time) and helps start the day on a good foot.

8:15 am: I usually start by preparing for the day. I know when I open up my emails that I usually get stuck there, so I review my calendar, meetings, video reviews and other important priorities for the day. My day can consist of everything from conference calls on scoring or rules, to Board or Committee meetings, to answering questions from lawyers or parents, to updating the rules website or handling any “drama” that may have occurred overnight! I try to also check the major social media outlets for any news that I should know about. THEN IT’S EMAIL TIME!!!

12:30 pm: Off to lunch. I try to get my mind out of “cheer” at this time and focus on coaching my boys at soccer, talk to my parents or just read local and national news websites. Then, back to work!

1:30 pm: More emails, meetings and conference calls. After lunch is when I usually do a calendar check to see if I need to book any upcoming flights, hotel rooms or rental cars.

5:00 pm: Traffic is a nightmare! I rush to pick up my boys from after school care, get changed, have a quick snack and run out the door to coach a soccer practice (soon to be football for my youngest son).

5:45 pm: I have learned to love coaching soccer. People always ask if I miss the coaching side of things. The answer is “ABSOLUTELY!” Now I get my coaching “fix” by coaching my sons. When you can train a group of individuals to lean on each other and trust one another to make a cohesive unit, the sky is the limit. I enjoy challenging them mentally and physically, and they are a great group of athletes. I usually get two to four rules phone calls while running practice (and games). I don’t mind as long as the cheer coach on the other end is patient while I call out instructions to my soccer athletes. My soccer parents think I’m a lunatic as I’m on the phone marking cheer stunts or watching stunt videos sent via text while coaching a game.

7:30 pm: This is my favorite time of day. We have a family dinner every night and take turns talking about the highlights of the day. We laugh, play and just enjoy our family time. If we have time after dinner, we may go for a family walk or bike ride. When my wife, Katie, travels to judge at cheer competitions, she is often asked about the latest USASF drama. People are always amazed that she has no idea what they are talking about. We never talk about cheerleading at home, especially in front of the boys. If my sons wanted to cheer, I would let them. However, I don’t want them to feel like they “have” to cheer because that’s what Mom and Dad are involved in all of the time.

9:00 pm: Time to put the boys to bed (if they have finished their homework) and relax with my wife for a bit before bed (and check emails one more time which usually gets me in trouble with Katie).

10:00 pm: Lights out! See you in the morning.

GTM Sportswear Spotlight: Les Stella

GTM Sportswear Spotlight: Les Stella

Ahh, the holidays—the perfect time to get away from work and relax, right? Not the case for Les Stella. From Easter to Christmas Eve to Thanksgiving, no day is too sacred for the hundreds of coaches worldwide who call Stella day in and day out to clarify USASF rules. “The only day I haven’t gotten a call is Christmas,” shares Stella. “Calls come in at all hours, since we do this for the world, not just the U.S. It’ll be the middle of the night, and I’ll get a call from Australia. It’s all over the map.”

Most would probably draw the line at giving out their personal cell phone numbers to an entire industry of cheer professionals, but Stella considers it all in a day’s work as USASF’s Executive Director of Rules. He keeps his iPad on him at all times for easy reference and to double-check for accuracy.

“My role is basically the keeper/enforcer of the rules,” says Stella, who is currently developing a database that will make it much easier to reference rules and their interpretations. “A lot of people assume that it’s the world according to Les Stella, but I’m just a part of the committee. However, at the end of the day, there has to be a ‘bottom line’ person—and that’s me.”

So how did Stella amass such an encyclopedic knowledge of all-star cheerleading and its intricacies? Attribute his passion and penchant for cheer to 30 years spent in the sport. Stella first started cheering in 1983 as a De La Salle High School student in New Orleans after his karate troupe was approached by a group of cheerleaders: “I was outside with a few buddies working on our [karate] form, when three attractive females came up to us and said, ‘You have really sharp motions—want to try a stunt?’ I was hooked ever since.”

After high school, Stella went on to cheer for three different colleges and become a UCA camp instructor. From there, his cheer career included coaching positions at Germantown High School and The Ultimate Cheer School (TUCS), as well as at a large gymnastics gym in Georgia. While taking his teams to competition, Stella was keenly aware of the fact that routines had to be altered constantly to fit the rules for each different event. This observation caused a light bulb moment for him in 2003: what if there was a governing body that could help regulate and create more consistency?

Stella quickly set up a meeting, asking for two hours of Bill Seely’s time and two hours of Jeff Webb’s time. “All the years I’d worked for UCA, I’d never asked for a favor, so I called one in,” he remembers. “[They said], ‘The good news is: you have great ideas and we like everything you have to say. The bad news is we just started a governing body. The ham sandwich is that we want to make an offer to you to move to Memphis and help start the USASF.’”

Les Stella with Morton Bergue, Elaine Pascale and Dan Kessler at NACCC

In his decade with the USASF, Stella has become one of its most recognizable faces and figures. He is known as the “Rules Guy,” running the committee and traveling to regional meetings to train safety judges on interpreting the rules. Though his job can often be tension-filled and stressful, Stella says he understands when coaches hotly debate a penalty. “When I was a coach, I needed someone to turn to for answers, so I can have empathy for coaches in those situations,” says Stella. “I don’t take it personally—they’re just defending their business, their kids, the way they pay their mortgage.”

That isn’t the only way Stella supports other cheer professionals. He soon plans to revive the “Les Stella Coaches’ Challenge,” a motivational Facebook group dedicated to fitness, and “Good for Cheer,” an initiative Stella is spearheading to create more media awareness around the positive side of cheerleading. “I get so sick and tired of mainstream media only talking about cheerleading when something bad happens,” shares Stella. “I’m collecting stories that provide a counterpoint to those negative ones.”

It’s all part of a deep passion for cheer that drives Stella every single day. “I’ve seen what cheer does for kids—thousands and thousands who come out of their shells and develop skills that follow them for life,” he says. “It’s such a cliché, but that’s what I truly believe.”

The 411 on Credentialing: 5 Things You Need to Know

The 411 on Credentialing: 5 Things You Need to Know

The road to coaching all-star teams involves a regulated process. Before anyone can coach all-stars, they must be credentialed through USASF.

How it works: The current credentialing process focuses on three subjects: tumbling, tosses and stunts. To be certified, all first-time coaches must complete a written test, a practical field experience form and a hands-on test that Amy Clark, USASF’s national director of membership, describes as a “one-on-one kind of verbal assessment of the coach’s ability to teach skills.”

Three years after receiving credentials, coaches must be re-credentialed—a process that consists of a different written test and another verbal assessment focusing more on safety, progression and troubleshooting. “The verbal test tells us much more about a coach then the written test,” Clark says. “When you ask probing questions, it really examines their coaching to the core.”

How it started: The USASF was actually created to help provide structure to the certification process. “For all intents and purposes, most people say the all-star industry started around 1986 or 1987—very small, regionally,” Clark says. “It started to grow nationwide in the early 90s. [At the time], it was a developing sport that had no governance. It had no guidelines and no certification or credentialing specifically for all-star. So when we started 10 years ago, our goal was to create this umbrella of an organization that could actually get everybody credentialed and get the stamp of approval on people that basically possess life experience.”

What it costs: The process currently costs around $15 per category and level for first-time coaches and $35 for those being re-credentialed. For coaches that work at gyms that are not members of the USASF, they must also pay a $40 annual membership fee.

Why it matters: The goal of the credentialing process is to help ensure the safety of the athletes. “It basically is the assurance to their customers that they possess the skill and knowledge to be working with their children,” Clark says. “The only place that is currently required to have credentials are those coaches of Level 5 or Level 6 teams, and they’re going to take their teams to Worlds.”

Where we’re headed: The USASF credentialing process is expected to change in the summer of 2014. Coaches will face required instruction, more comprehensive classes and more resources including online training videos, according to Clark. Credentialing will take place primarily at summer regional meetings.

“There are new gyms starting where people have little experience, and there are new coaches coming in that were athletes and not coaches and don’t have the coaching experience,” Clark says. “That’s why we have this need to change.”

Debbie Love, who assists with the University of Louisville’s cheerleading program, wants to see even more stringent requirements. “I feel that there needs to be required hands-on training for tumbling instructors, and that coaches should have required injury prevention training either online or in person,” says Love who is also a tumbling expert. “We are taught to spend a good deal of time with each person we credential, so it is a very thorough process.”

Love says other safety courses should also be a requirement for coaches. “I also feel AACCA should be required by all,” Love says. “It is a great general safety course. I don’t feel you can have too much education. The minute we stop learning, we fail.”

Open Letter from USASF To Its Members

Open Letter from USASF To Its Members

The purpose of this letter is to inform our members about some questions which have been raised recently relating to our structure and operating procedures. We will address those questions below, but more importantly, we would also like to share with you our view for the future.

When the USASF was founded in 2004 the All Star community was much different than it is today. There were no rules, no safety guidelines and no competition standards. There was also no true recognized national championship. If we had had a crystal ball at that time and had been able to see how All Star would develop in the following 10 years, there is no question many things would have been set up differently. However, since we did not have the luxury of what is now hindsight, it is important to understand the history of the organization in order to better appreciate why USASF made some of the decisions that are now being questioned.

We accept some of the questions that have been raised as a legitimate attempt to strengthen the organization, and we welcome that dialogue. Like all organizations, ours is not perfect, but we remain committed to doing what is right for the athletes, coaches and organizations that make up All Star Cheer and Dance.

History of USASF

USASF was founded in 2004 by Varsity and CHEERSPORT. At that time, both companies believed that there needed to be an organization that could bring stability to the sport and serve the athletes and coaches by standardizing rules, promoting safety and providing sanctioning standards.

In evaluating how to legally establish this new organization, Varsity and CHEERSPORT determined that a non-profit entity was the preferred structure. Therefore, USASF was chartered as a non-profit corporation in Tennessee as this was viewed to be a cost effective ($100 fee) and a quick and efficient way to start the organization. There was never any serious discussion about setting it up as a 501c corporation because this would have added unnecessary complexity and delay. A 501c status is used primarily for organizations that receive charitable donations, which the USASF does not. The corporate charter for USASF is posted on our website. To be clear, USASF is a separate legal entity from, files taxes independently of, and is not a corporation owned by Varsity. The corporate structure is controlled by the USASF Board of Directors and could be changed if the board decided it was in the best interest of the members.

As the USASF was being formed, it wrote its bylaws and appointed its first Board of Directors. Viewed today, it is obvious those bylaws could be improved upon. But remember, when written there was no reason for a formal set of complete statutes. The bylaws made all of the original board seats permanent in order to assure the organization stayed true to its mission. They also required a unanimous vote to change the bylaws. This stipulation is probably not ideal today, but frankly it was originally proposed by CHEERSPORT as protection to insure that it could not be voted out at some point in the future. JAMfest was also granted a permanent seat when they joined based on similar concerns. The bylaws have been amended several times over the years to broaden membership and representation to include coaches, gym owners and other event producers. The bylaws and amendments can be seen on our website.

After USASF was formed, Varsity provided an interest free line of credit to the USASF. At its peak, the loan balance was $1.8M. As of December 31, 2012, the balance on the loan was $565K.Varsity has allowed the USASF to have complete flexibility with our repayment schedule. The loan has been completely interest free to the USASF. This has been an incredible benefit to our organization and members, and it would have been impossible for the USASF to survive without it. Varsity has also continued to guarantee a substantial “rainy day” fund to insure USASF could withstand any type of unforeseen natural or financial disaster such as having to cancel Worlds one year. There has been no “co-mingling of funds” or any other impropriety. Just as any lending institution would do, Varsity secures the loan by retaining certain rights to the USASF trademark and intellectual property.

Moving Forward

As previously stated, the USASF and its board recognize that change is needed within the organization. The board met via conference call on Wednesday, April 3, 2013 and agreed to initiate a process to systematically manage this change. We want to move promptly but do not want to make the mistake, which has occurred in the past, of making significant changes without taking the time to solicit input from all members and stakeholders.

The issues we have identified to address are as follows:

  • Board Make Up: This will include, but will not be limited to, structure of the board, balance of representation and accountability within the USASF.
  • Bylaw Revisions: Revise the bylaws to accurately reflect the current environment and govern USASF properly.
  • Worlds: A comprehensive analysis of everything relating to Worlds including the pros and cons of utilizing Walt Disney World as a venue.
  • Location of USASF Office.

As this process unfolds, there may be other areas we examine based on feedback from our membership. We will utilize our existing committees, the NACCC and our USASF Regional Meetings to insure our entire membership is heard and considered as we address these issues.

One area the board felt needed to be improved now was that of financial reporting. Though we have nothing to hide, we believe a more detailed financial report would eliminate some of the inaccurate statements from our critics. As always, an independent certified public accounting firm will review the books and records. In addition, moving forward into 2013, a report by that public accounting firm will be included in a calendar year annual report that will be provided to our members and available to the public. This new annual report will also address a general update of the status of the USASF, as well as its future plans. In about three weeks we will post the 2012 financial report for the USASF on the website, along with more detailed information than has been presented in the past.

The board also agreed to move forward aggressively on several programs that we feel are critical to serving our athletes and coaches. We will consider and investigate options for an enhanced athlete membership program with an outstanding and affordable individual insurance option component and provide information in the upcoming weeks. Our professional membership program will also be improved, including reviewing the option for background checks for everyone working with our athletes. Also, we have already asked Les Stella to develop a more dynamic and comprehensive FAQ section on our website to provide a better way to field and answer the most common questions. These are types of initiatives that only USASF is in a position to accomplish and we are committed to getting them done expeditiously.

In closing, we would like to thank all of the hundreds, if not thousands of people who have volunteered their time and efforts to create and build the USASF. The organization would not have accomplished what we have without their dedication to make our sport better. We look forward to working with our entire community to insure we continue to build an even stronger and more effective USASF.

Sincerely,
USASF Board of Directors

Morton Bergue
Mike Burgess, Vice President
Justin Carrier
Jim Chadwick, President
Brian Elza
Jeff Fowlkes
Tara Patton Harris
Happy Hooper, Secretary/Treasurer
Mack Hirshberg
Dan Kessler
Colleen Little
Catherine Morris
John Newby
Elaine Pascale
Kathy Penree
Steve Peterson
Kristen Rosario

Read the GrowCheer.org response to USASF’s open letter here.

GrowCheer.org Survey Results: Where The Industry Stands

GrowCheer.org Survey Results: Where The Industry Stands

In March, Cheer Industry Insights founder Jeff Watkins conducted a study of more than 500 cheer professionals and parents to see where they stand on the issues raised by the GrowCheer.org proposal. We conducted a Q&A with him to find out more about the collective response:

Looking at your research on the whole, what were some of the things that stood out most in your findings?

First of all, it became very clear how much most of the industry is craving a change right now. They’re seeking changes in the way USASF is currently being run, particularly with its reliance on Varsity and the perceived imbalance in the decision-making process. Most of the survey respondents are excited that there are people out there starting to take action to try to affect that change. I don’t know that they see the GrowCheer.org proposal as the immediate answer, but they are hopeful it will get the ball rolling. It has provided good grounds for conversation.

What were the most commonly perceived strengths and weaknesses of USASF?

Clearly people recognize USASF for what it has done in getting all-star cheer organized and under the same set of rules, and they acknowledge Varsity’s help along the way. They appreciate the efforts toward increasing the safety of the sport, and people also commented on how successful the Worlds competition has become. The weaknesses that clearly rose to the top were the financial reliance on Varsity and its unbalanced influence (as far as the number of people sitting on the board and stronghold they have on decisions). Those concerns accounted for 30 percent of all things noted as weaknesses, mostly by gym owners and coaches. Another weakness often mentioned was that USASF has outgrown the Worlds competition and has lost flexibility in terms of venue. The other main thing believed to be hindering the growth is that staffing at USASF is insufficient for the growth they’d like to see it take.

How would you describe the overall response to the GrowCheer.org proposal among your respondents?

Roughly 30 percent of survey-takers had some hesitation or maybe a bit of distrust that the seven companies are doing this without any financial motivation. Although it wasn’t the majority [of respondents], it’s enough that the GrowCheer.org companies should pay attention. They’ll have to convince the industry that their motives are the best interest of sport and not for their bottom line. The keyword is transparency and gaining their trust. It also needs to be noted that there was a clear group of respondents (about 15 percent) that had nothing good to say about the proposal—I’d call them Varsity loyalists. They were filled with doubt about the intentions and saw it as a desperation move by these companies to stir up an angry mob.

As far as the number of respondents who said they would be more likely to support the seven companies backing the proposal, this was polarizing. 42 percent of these people said 8 or higher, but the Varsity loyalists really brought that number down. If I’m [affiliated with] Varsity and I see that number, I’m freaking out because these companies are all in direct competition with Varsity. If 42 percent of gym owners are identifying as highly likely to go ahead and buy from these other companies, I better listen to what these guys have to say. That’s a considerable amount of potential loss.

Your research found that different criteria were important to different groups. Can you expand on that a bit?

Responses across the board were quite similar, but there were differentiators. The gym owners are the ones who want this change, who are demanding this independence. They want to be assured that all their hard work and investment and risk won’t be swept out from under them because of a dysfunctional governing body. There is a sense of betrayal from when they originally signed on to the USASF idea.

The feeling among parents is that they’re forking over all of this money for their kids to cheer and they’re not 100 percent convinced it’s going to an organization that is supporting it being a sport or anything more than a rec activity. As for the athletes, they were quite verbal and vocal. I think they’re pretty upset and pretty frustrated with last year’s rules changes. They felt like no one really cared what they thought and they’re mad at USASF.

Download the full survey results here: Reaction to GrowCheer proposal2.

 

Going for the Gold: 10 Years of Worlds Winners!

Going for the Gold: 10 Years of Worlds Winners!

This month marks the 10th annual Cheerleading Worlds in Orlando, Florida—the countdown begins! Get prepped by taking a look back at the gold medalists in each division since the beginning. (We’re looking forward to filling in the blanks for 2013.) Check out the wonderful wide world of worlds, and don’t miss our 10-year retrospective in the summer issue of CheerProfessional!

2004

Senior All-Girl: Cheer Athletics

Senior Coed: Miami Elite

 

2005

Small Senior: Stingray All-Stars

Small Senior Coed: Spirit of Texas

Large Senior: Maryland Twisters – F5

Large Senior Coed: Miami Elite

 

2006

Small Senior: Cheer Athletics – Jags

Large Senior: Cheer Athletics – Panthers

Small Senior Coed: Gym Tyme All Stars

Large Senior Coed: Cheer Athletics – Wildcats

International Open All-Girl: Georgia All Stars

International Coed: Gym Tyme All Stars

 

2007

Small Senior: Stingray All-Stars

Large Senior: World Cup Shooting Stars

Small Senior Coed: Gym Tyme All Stars

Large Senior Coed: Top Gun

International Junior: World Cup – Starlites

International Junior Coed: Flip Factory

International Open All Girl: Encore Cheer Company

International Coed: Gym Tyme All Stars

 

2008

Small Senior All-Girl: Stingray All-Stars

Large Senior All-Girl: World Cup Shooting Stars

Senior Unlimited Coed: Top Gun

Large Senior Unlimited Coed: Spirit of Texas

International Junior All Girl 5: World Cup – Starlites

International Junior Coed 5: University Cheer Junior Air Force

Small International Open All Girl: Cheer Athletics Fierce Katz

Large International Open All Girl 5: South Elite Allstars

Small International Open Coed 5: Cheer Athletics Pumas

Large International Open Coed 5: Gym Tyme All Stars

International Open Coed 6: Stingray All-Stars

International Open All Girl 6: PACE Phoenix Allstars

 

2009

Small Senior All-Girl: Stingray All-Stars

Large Senior All-Girl: World Cup Shooting Stars

Senior Unlimited Coed: California All Stars

Large Senior Limited Coed: Spirit of Texas

Small Senior Limited Coed: Brandon All Stars

International Junior: Maryland Twisters Supercells

International Junior Coed: Cheer Athletics Jags

International Coed 5: Cheer Athletics Wildcats

International All Girl 5: Cheer Athletics FierceKatz

International Coed 6: Gym Tyme All Stars

International All Girl 6: UPAC Miss Panthers (Chile)

 

2010

Small Senior All-Girl: Stingray All-Stars

Small Senior Limited Coed: Premier Athletics Kentucky Elite

Large Senior All-Girl: Cheer Extreme

Large Senior Limited Coed: Spirit of Texas

Large Senior Semi-Limited Coed: Georgia All-Stars

Senior Unlimited Coed: Top Gun All Stars

International Junior All-Girl 5: Maryland Twisters Supercells

International Junior Coed 5: California All Stars

International Open All-Girl 5: Gym Tyme – Pink

International Open Coed 5: Top Gun All Stars

International Open All Girl 6: Gym Tyme All Stars – Orange

International Open Coed 6: Gym Tyme – Infinity

 

2011

Small Senior All-Girl: Cheer Athletics – Panthers

Large Senior All-Girl: Maryland Twisters – F5

Small Senior Limited: Brandon All Stars – Senior Black

Large Senior Limited Coed: Twist and Shout – Senior Obsession

Large Senior Semi-Limited Coed: ACE Warriors

Senior Unlimited Coed: California All Stars

International Open All-Girl 5: Gym Tyme – Pink

International Open Coed 5: Top Gun All Stars

International Open Coed 6: Bangkok University (Thailand); Gym Tyme – Nfinity

 

2012

Senior Large Coed: Cheer Athletics – Cheetahs

Small Senior All-Girl: Stingray All-Stars – Orange

Senior Large All-Girl: Cheer Extreme Senior Elite

Senior Medium Coed: Spirit of Texas

Senior Small Coed Level 5: California All Stars – Smoed

International Open Coed Level 5: Gym Tyme All Stars – Black

International Coed Level 6: Twist & Shout – Genesis

International Open All-Girl Level 5: Gym Tyme All Stars/Louisville Cheer & Dance Inc.

International Open All-Girl Level 6: Cheer Athletics – Lady Katz

Update from GrowCheer.org

Update from GrowCheer.org

Many cheer professionals have been asking for an update about the GrowCheer.org proposal and whether the USASF has responded. The companies affiliated with GrowCheer.org have sent us the following update to share with the community:

GrowCheer.org would like to thank all of those in our industry that have voiced their support for our efforts, both publicly and privately. We would also like to thank Jim Chadwick and the USASF BOD for recognizing GrowCheer.org and agreeing to an initial dialogue after receiving our formal proposal. It is out of respect for the USASF, and an earnest desire to make all of the changes that we have proposed, that we will not be commenting publicly while discussions are ongoing.

Since the creation of GrowCheer.org, we’ve all noticed an increase in discussions about additional changes that should be made in the future with the USASF and our sport in general. While it is this kind of creativity and “what if?” thinking that will eventually make our industry better and growing again, we emphasize that the primary mission of GrowCheer.org is simply to create an independent and transparent USASF that can tackle these issues in the best interest of all of our members.  

We also reiterate that while we are prepared to financially help the USASF gain independence, our only expectation in return is a truly independent and transparent USASF. To repeat, NONE OF THE FOUNDING COMPANIES OF GROWCHEER.ORG HAVE A DESIRE TO REPLACE VARSITY AS THE CONTROLLING ENTITY OF THE USASF.  No sport or industry should ever be controlled by special interests within that organization if it truly wants to grow and get better.

 

 

Industry Reaction to GrowCheer.org

Industry Reaction to GrowCheer.org

Yesterday’s announcement about GrowCheer.org and the push for an independent USASF sparked a range of reactions throughout the industry. While USASF has declined to comment on the matter, we were able to speak with Varsity’s VP of Public Relations Sheila Noone to learn their company’s stance. “Everything Varsity does is with an eye towards what is best for the young athletes we serve,” says Noone. “No one has more of an interest in growing all disciplines of cheerleading than Varsity, and we feel we have been a strong partner to the USASF and its members.”

Read a sampling of what event producers and gym owners around the industry had to say:

Independent Event Producers (IEP): The Independent Event Producers, IEP, was not consulted, informed or involved in any formation of this proposal. The IEP fully supports a proposal for a fair and transparent governing body. It is our hope that all constituents of the USASF have equal representation. The mission of IEP remains our focus today. Our main objective is to “collectively influence the cheerleading and dance industry, to promote independence and work to ensure our long-term viability in the industry.”

Dave Sewell (Extreme Spirit): Xtreme Spirit has not renewed USASF membership for the 2012-2013 season due to its Varsity control. We feel the current system is in place to maintain control over the Industy’s growth. We will follow the USASF rules, but with exceptions designed to help struggling gyms retain their higher level athletes and also showcase the advanced tumblers out there that are beyond Level 5.

Jody Melton (Cheer Athletics): This is a very interesting proposal that could potentially lead to some needed reforms for our sport. I like the group’s willingness to at least try to work with the USASF/Varsity to iron out some of the issues, rather than starting by creating a competing organization.

The USASF has given us many positive changes for our industry, and it simply would not exist without the leadership of Varsity and its employees, money, guidance and support. They should be applauded for their tremendous work over the last decade. However, it is time to take another look at the USASF structure to ensure that the entire industry is fairly represented. It seems obvious that no single individual, gym, program, company or conglomerate should have significant & permanent influence over our governing body.

There are obvious details that would need to be filled in and some questions to be answered, but on its surface – this looks like a potentially great way to help transition the USASF into an even better & more transparent governing body.

Scott “Crasher” Braasch (Cheer Tyme): I am a staunch supporter and critic of the USASF. I believe our industry has been served well by those in leadership and applaud all their efforts. Our governing body for the sport/industry of All Star Cheer is not just important to our continued growth, safety and structure—it is a must. For this reason, I have always supported the USASF and its mission. I have also been a critic of the USASF and its origins from the cheerleading industry’s largest vendor. As a huge supporter of Varsity brands, I respect and appreciate their financial and intellectual contributions to the origins of the USASF; however, I believe we have come to a point where USASF should truly stand and govern our all star industry independently. This letter shows a divide in our industry that has been developing for years. A governing body that is so closely intertwined with the largest vendor in our industry does not insure that all decisions made on behalf of the governing body are in its best interest, but rather implies that they are in the best interest of the vendor. What other format in our world today has a for-profit entity that governs or is perceived to govern a non-profit entity whose decisions reflect and/or could reflect the profitability of the for-profit entity? This proposal sounds fair and seems to alleviate reasons why so many question the relationship of Varsity Brands to the USASF. I look forward to the outcome of this proposal and sense yet another defining moment in our sport/industry ahead.

Megan and Casey Marlow (Pacific Coast Magic): Awesome concept. Awesome news!!!! Been in this industry for 15 years. So happy to see something truly moving and changing happening!

Chad Mulkey (XPA All-Stars): This is the best news that has been introduced to this industry since its inception. The stronghold has held back a SPORT that has grown tremendously. While Varsity can be thanked for its contributions for the inception, it is clear that this step is crucial as it grows. Excited, excited, excited!

Pam Swope (Storm Elite All-Stars): I totally agree!!! There should be NO company that controls the USASF – no more than the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is! There can’t be a company profiting from the use of a governing body for a sport to grow and thrive. MLB and the NFL are not owned by NIKE – so Varsity should not have control over the governing body of USASF.

 

BREAKING NEWS: Seven Industry Companies Unite to Urge and Facilitate USASF Independence

BREAKING NEWS: Seven Industry Companies Unite to Urge and Facilitate USASF Independence

CheerProfessional has learned that seven industry companies (Cheer Zone, GK Elite, GTM Sportswear, Motionwear, Nfinity, Rebel Athletic and Team Cheer) have united in an effort to facilitate the USASF’s independence from Varsity Brands. Their plan includes assuming the USASF’s loan from Varsity, revising the Board of Directors and moving the USASF office and employees to a neutral location. Read their full proposal and react in the comments section:

GrowCheer.ORG 

Proposal to the United States All Star Federation

GrowCheer.ORG is a group of unrelated industry companies with a singular purpose to grow the sport of cheerleading.

As such, we believe that the first (and most important) step in fostering future growth in our sport is a FREE and INDEPENDENT United States All Star Federation (“USASF”).

How are we going to accomplish this?

Central to our plan is to replace the current loan(s) that the USASF has with Varsity Spirit Corporation and/or affiliated companies (“Varsity”).

It is understood that the reason Varsity controls a majority of the seats on the USASF board and why Varsity owns the trademark of the USASF is to secure repayment of these loans.   We firmly believe that in order to have a unified industry, no single organization should be unduly influenced by and/or controlled by another.

We propose to assume the loan with essentially the same financial terms that Varsity has given to the USASF.  We are prepared to do this immediately after the 2013 USASF Worlds competition.

Other key provisions relating to our plan are as follows:

1)   Require an immediate external audit of the USASF financials by an independent accounting firm that we mutually agree on.  We will bear the cost of this audit.

  1. This firm would determine the amount that remains outstanding to Varsity.
  2. The firm would examine the relationship between the USASF and the IASF and confirm that all monies paid to the USASF by American gyms would be used for the support of American programming, not international programming.
  3. The firm would examine the relationship between the USASF and the host site to make sure only the USASF received benefit from the relationship.

2)   All USASF property held in lien as security for outstanding loans with Varsity, including but not exclusively intellectual property (i.e., trademarks), would be released to the USASF.

3)   Immediate rewriting of the Articles of Incorporation, By Laws, and Operating Agreement to abolish all permanent Board of Directors seats and create a provision for an organized election to be conducted as soon as practical.  The new Board of Directors would be composed of equal representation among all segments of our industry – gym owners/coaches, event producers and industry vendors.

4)   Future production of USASF World competitions would be granted to a qualified event producer after an open bidding process administered by the Board of Directors.

5)   The office and employees of the USASF would be moved to a neutral location in Memphis.  If necessary, we would subsidize payment for the office space until it could be supported by the cash flow of the USASF.

6)   After the first year, or as soon as practical, the Board of Directors would interview and select a professional management company to assume the day-to-day operations of the USASF.

7)   The USASF would be reorganized as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that is recognized by the IRS as such.

We believe very much in this industry and recognize Varsity for its past foresight and support, but we have come to a point where we can no longer afford to see our governing body indebted to and controlled by a profit motivated company with a clear conflict of interest.  In a time when so many are calling for the industry to break apart into separate factions, we feel that the best solution is to step in and provide a practical way for there to be just one, FREE and INDEPENDENT governing body.  And we believe that we have proposed a workable solution to this matter.

Your acceptance of the above terms is expected by March 1, 2013 to GrowCheer@gmail.com so that we can make provisions for a seamless transition.

Respectfully,

 

Cheer Zone ™

GK Elite Sportswear, L.P.

GTM Sportswear, Inc.

Motionwear, LLC

Nfinity Athletic LLC

Rebel Athletic ™

Team Cheer™

 

United States All-Star Federation, USASF, ISAF, USASF Worlds, Varsity are all Registered trademarks of the Varsity Spirit Corporation, Memphis, TN.

 

Two Sides: Athlete ID

Two Sides: Athlete ID

CheerProfessional explores both sides of the debate on the USASF’s Athlete ID verification and membership system.

With the USASF’s implementation of Athlete ID, this year marks the first season that gym owners can print and present a verified roster at USASF-sanctioned events rather than having to show birth certificates as proof of age. Along with the aim of deterring cheating and falsification of athletes’ ages, the new system is also geared at simplifying the registration process.

Yet not all gym owners are on board with Athlete ID—for reasons ranging from logistical issues to privacy concerns. We spoke with USASF’s Karen Wilson and Prime Tyme Athletics’ Sarah Smith to explore both sides of the issue.

Editor’s Note: Please note that the views expressed in this article are expressly those of our sources and not those of CheerProfessional.

Sarah Smith,
Prime Tyme Athletics,
Owner

On her initial reaction: I like the idea of athlete membership in theory much better than in practice, at least at this point. Many years ago, when the USASF was brand-new, they had a form of athlete membership which involved credentialing. We flew a USASF rep to the gym to watch our kids perform various skills and they would get these little Chevron patches. It took forever—we didn’t even get through half of our Worlds team that year. We didn’t get the Chevrons until halfway through the next season, and we had to harass people even for that.

Since we had a bad experience with the original version, I’m very wary [of Athlete ID]. We as a program have chosen not to register our athletes this year, even though it’s free and highly encouraged. (Only for Worlds, because it’s required.) Time is money, and I don’t want to spend my or others’ time entering all this information to register athletes when the people I’m going to compete against don’t have to do it either.

On privacy concerns: One of our biggest concerns is for the safety of the athletes. The parents are wary to give out birth certificates—it seems really extreme, especially without knowing who is privy to the information.

Also, I don’t believe that USASF is a separate, independent governing body, which spills over into the athlete membership issue. Since we are located near Nashville, most of our competitor gyms are owned by Varsity, so turning over our confidential client information adds another layer of personal concern. Who says they can’t use that information to turn around and directly market for the competitor gyms? I’m not saying they’re going to do that, but it’s a very valid concern. Varsity owns gyms in many other states, so there are gym owners around the country dealing with this exact problem. [EDITOR’S NOTE: Varsity owns 11 Premier Athletics locations in six states.] I’m pro-Varsity competitions, but I’m anti-conflict of interest.

Lots of youth sports use third-party organizations that are stored in a secure database that wouldn’t be accessible by vendors and direct competitors. It might also help the parents feel safer when sharing their athlete’s information. Overall, this is proprietary information that should be safeguarded. [EDITOR’S NOTE: USASF’s Lynn Singer says that the Athlete ID information is stored by a third party.]

On enforceability: Even if registering athletes was mandatory, who will enforce it? There isn’t a USASF rep at every competition checking IDs. What if a 3-year-old on Tiny doesn’t have her Athlete ID—will they tell her she can’t participate? The problem is that it spirals back to the fact that USASF is controlled by some of the people who profit off our industry. The event producers actually hold the power. If they were to choose to enforce the athlete membership, they would have to turn away some of their own customers.

On logistics: What happens if you’re at CheerSport nationals with your all-star teams and someone gets hurt in the warm-up room Friday night? If you need to replace and register a new athlete, will USASF be open 24/7 for you to be able to do so? How can we prove every athlete is registered? We don’t have a bench full of athletes waiting to hop in should someone get injured; we have to rearrange, and that sometimes means using one of your own athletes from a school team.

If we ever got to a system where a Level 5 athlete isn’t also allowed to be on Level 1 or 2 team, it would be great to track such things and athlete membership would be a way to do that. But does that cross the lines of what a governing body should do in a free market economy? It’s a lot to consider.

On cost: If they do decide to charge, it will be another barrier to entry in our sport. Before athletes even pay a month of tuition to me, they will have to pay $25 [or another set amount] to a governing body that’s not really doing anything other than stating standards? If athlete membership is truly the most pressing issue for USASF, all resources should be allocated to making sure it’s done effectively and affordably.

On whether it will deter cheating: I do believe it could deter cheating, but cheating is something that never goes away. If people cheat in the Olympics with all of their safeguards, people who are going to cheat [in all-star cheerleading] will find a way. But [Athlete ID] is another hoop to jump through, which could help prevent cheating on some level.

On the silver lining: I’ve heard many people say we need a way to track things like injuries, participation and cheating. I do believe some form of athlete membership could legitimize our sport in those aspects; most youth sports do have some sort of membership. It would be great to have actual numbers of participants in our sport, so that when someone comes up with injury reports and way underestimates the total amount of cheerleaders, we’d have our own document to counter some of those things for the positive PR of our sport. But in practice, I don’t think that we’re ready for that yet. I don’t think the system is ready to achieve the goals it is set up for.

The bottom line: I can see how some people would like to have rules in place that are tracked by athlete membership, but I’m not sure more governing power is what we really need. Until it is enforceable, affordable and an independent third party stores the membership information, I think there are lots of other ways to legitimize our sport other than athlete membership.

Karen Wilson,
USASF West Coast Regional Director

On the introduction of Athlete ID: The idea was brought forward through the NACCC as a way of bringing about legitimacy. We’ve done a great job of creating and implementing the rules at USASF events, but there was still quite a bit of uncertainty as to whether athletes were truly of age and matching up with the age grid. Every event producer had their own process, so it was very confusing to parents and athletes and gym owners. We obviously have had this system in place for Level 5 for Worlds; it’s just now been strengthened [for all athletes].

On the response: We have more than 70,000 athletes in the system, which is a testament to how much coaches want this. The one roadblock has been that, like anything new, it’s time-consuming. [Gym owners and coaches] have to gather the information and educate parents and athletes about the system. It’s a lot of work on behalf of the gym owners, and for them to be doing this much is again a testament to the demand.

On privacy and confidentiality: Storing information securely through our system is much safer than bringing birth certificates to events. For a long time, it has been required that every gym owner has proof of age at a USASF event. They were literally carrying them around at events, which was what drove coaches to say that we need a system [like Athlete ID]. Once the information is uploaded and verified by a small handful of USASF staff, it is digitally destroyed and shredded; these documents are not housed anywhere. Also, we don’t ask for social security numbers, and birth certificates are a matter of public record.

On whether it will deter cheating: As a Regional Director, I get more calls about age issues than anything else. When an athlete leaves a gym owner’s program and that owner sees them on another team, they have the birth certificate so they know if they’re not eligible. What is the process for verifying beyond that? Regardless of how many people are cheating, we have an obligation as the governing body to minimize [cheating] even further. We have to make sure it’s a level playing field and everyone is playing by the same rules.

On enforcement: Enforcement is not the objective this year; education and communication is. We’ve been working with event producers on getting the word out. When gyms and athletes go to a USASF-sanctioned event, they don’t necessarily have to be members. The problem is that if there is a violation they can’t be held accountable because they’re not members—that’s problematic. By having the Athlete ID required, it brings us back to a level playing field.

I can communicate to and educate my members, but I have no resources to educate those non-members. The only one who does is the event producer through registration; they have the opportunity to provide that education, and that’s what we’re encouraging event producers to do. That drives people to find out more about membership and join—they want to be part of doing things right. This year, the Regional Directors are working very closely with event producers to provide any resources or assistance that we can.

Enforcement is not on the agenda for event producers at this point; it’s not a case of people not enforcing Athlete ID. We’re finding that when the event producers do provide education beforehand, we have a huge rate of compliance. [Gym owners] are thrilled when they can print the roster and manage their program through the USASF profile. The ones who are doing it are loving it. It’s a collaborative effort between the Regional Directors and the event producers, and we’re seeing big successes.

On logistics: If there is a challenge, it would go through that event’s protocol; the event producer would look at it and see. Ultimately we’ll have cards with their photos and the matching ID and birth certificate—we’re just not there yet. It’s got a long timeline. In the meantime, I think we’ll be able to minimize a huge majority of issues.

On cost:  Currently there is no cost for Athlete ID. Our research shows almost every youth organization has an entry fee. We are a not for profit organization, and Athlete ID is not a profit-making endeavor at this point. Our objective is to ensure that the kids are safe and that we can provide a level playing field for our members. If and when there is a cost, it won’t be exorbitant.

The bottom line: This is the springboard for many great things to come. We want accountability measures. We want sportsmanship. We want trust and legitimacy in our system. We’re putting lots of checks and balances in place, and two years from now, I believe it’s going to be standard operating procedure. It won’t be as time-consuming. Athletes’ numbers will follow them in their cheer or dance career regardless of what gym they are associated with, so they’ll never have to prove it again.

People want to know they can go to competition and that it will be fair across the board. I’m encouraged by the voice of the coaches; having them do this without seeing a tangible benefit is a clear indicator of its importance. We’re working day and night to make sure this is successful because we believe it is the right thing to do.

 

Guest Post: Are We Taking The Cheer Out of Cheerleading?

Guest Post: Are We Taking The Cheer Out of Cheerleading?

If you’ve been listening to the buzz around the parent viewing rooms at your gym, you’re sure to know that USASF recently released its Worlds packet for 2013. I was surprised to see the addition of “Section V – Athlete Behavior” to the rules and regulations. When I was reading part A, subsection c of this new rule, it made me a little bit sad for the athletes competing this year. No more high fives, team rituals, running out and hugging coaches. No more collapsing on the mat at the end of the performance. No “displays of public affection.” There is some bite behind this rule: any violation can be a 2-, 4- or 6-point deduction.

So why? I asked quite a few people that went last year and I read a bit of the buzz on the Internet about their thoughts. Everyone agreed that time is an issue at Worlds. Teams need to get on and off the performance area in a timely manner to keep things running on schedule. But wouldn’t any delay caused by excessive celebration already be penalized under Section V, part A, subsection a where teams get 30 seconds to enter and 30 seconds to leave the floor? If a team can get off of the performance floor within 30 seconds, should they be penalized if they do so while hugging or holding hands? I started wondering—are we taking the cheer out of cheerleading? It’s the marriage of elite tumbling, gravity-defying stunts and beautifully choreographed dance held by the glue of energy and exuberance that draws so many to this sport. Are the rule changes slowly chipping away at what we love about cheer, or are they necessary steps in the growth of the sport?

First came last spring’s rules change bombshell: Difficulty restrictions, uniform regulations and the unfortunate singling out of the “flamboyant ” male cheerleader (which, thankfully, was removed). And now—no excessive celebrations. It reminds me of the rules put into place by the NFL starting in the 1990s into the 2000s. Coaches, fans and players agreed that some celebrations were out of hand (does anyone remember Chad Johnson performing CPR on the football?), lots of fans complained and said the player celebrations helped to make the players more energized and the game more entertaining. The league eventually found a compromise and today Gronkowski of the Patriots gets his big spike, New York’s Victor Cruz gets to salsa and everyone in Green Bay loves the Lambeau leap. Hopefully the USASF will come to the same conclusion and allow a bit of celebration.

For many athletes, Worlds is the culmination of years of hardwork and dedication. If it all comes together for you and you’re flawless for two minutes and thirty seconds—shouldn’t you be allowed a fist-bump, a hug or a couple of high fives?

This post originally appeared on our partner website Cheer Parents Central.

 

Cheer Orgs and Associations 101

Cheer Orgs and Associations 101

As the all-star cheerleading industry has blossomed, an array of organizations has also sprung onto the cheer scene—resulting in a virtual alphabet soup of acronyms from ASGA to NCSSE to USASF.  Learn more about each group and how to decipher your options as a cheer professional with this handy-dandy slide show!

AACCA

 

American Association of Cheerleading Coaches and Administrators (AACCA)

First founded in 1988, this non-profit educational association is dedicated to safety education. Its more than 70,000 member cheerleading coaches represent areas ranging from youth to high school to all-star to collegiate cheer and more. AACCA also provides ongoing certification opportunities for coaches and administrators, as well as secondary liability insurance coverage.

Website: http://www.aacca.org

 

USASF

United States All-Star Federation (USASF)

The national governing body for the all-star cheer industry, the USASF was founded in 2003 by the collective group of National Cheerleaders Association (NCA), Universal Cheerleaders Association (UCA), Cheersport and America’s Best. Today the org has more than 500 member gyms and 130 competition sponsors, all of which agree to follow a standard set of rules set forth by the USASF. USASF also offers coach and athlete credentialing, scholarship programs, and other special programs. In conjunction with International All-Star Federation (IASF), USASF hosts the annual Cheerleading Worlds competition in Orlando, FL.

Website: http://usasf.net

National Advisory Board

National Advisory Board (NAB)

A subset of the USASF, the National Advisory Board is comprised of 25 members, all of whom serve two-year terms and are elected by the overall membership. Its purpose is to “set the agenda for the USASF as it addresses the future in a manner that will democratically represent the entire membership of the USASF.” The majority of the NAB are coaches and event producers (10 each), while the remaining five advisory board members represent affiliates.

Website: http://usasf.net/members/board/

NSGA

National Small Gyms Association

The NSGA is dedicated to recognizing and meeting the unique needs of small gyms with less than 75 members. (Once a gym grows to more than 150 athletes, it is no longer eligible to be part of NSGA.) In recent years, the NSGA merged its organization with the USASF, and annual fees are now included in overall USASF membership. The association meets annually at the NACCC to further the interests of small gyms across the nation.

Website: http://www.usasf.net/members/smallgym

NACCC

National All-Star Cheerleading Coaches Congress (NACCC)

Also a subset of the USASF (since 2005), the NACCC is held every January in Atlanta, GA, and is designed to give USASF members from across the country “a voice in the government.” At this industry meeting of the minds, rules changes and other policies of note are discussed and voted on by the membership at large. It now also encompasses the annual NSGA meeting since the group has joined forces with USASF.

Website: http://usasf.net/cheer/

NCSSE

National Council for Spirit Safety and Education (NCSSE)

Headed by Liz Rossetti of Americheer, the NCSSE features an international council of industry leaders whose aims are to provide comprehensive safety training and certification for spirit coaches and advisors. Nine countries are represented in its membership, and its board members include Americheer, British Cheerleading Association, Southwestern Cheerleading Association, Cheer Ltd. and UPA Cheer and Dance.

Website: http://www.spiritsafety.com

IEP

Independent Event Producers (IEP)

Founded in September 2009 by a core group of eight companies (Mardi Gras, UPA Cheer & Dance, Cheer America, Pac West, WSA, Spirit Celebration, Champion Cheer and Cheer Ltd.), IEP serves as an independently functioning group of event producers who come together for the greater good. (Eligible members are independent companies with revenues of $5 million+ that are not owned or controlled by any spirit industry entity.) Since its inception, IEP has grown to more than 20 member companies and held its first all-member conference in Las Vegas in 2010.

Website: http://www.weareiep.com

ASIP

Association of Spirit Industry Professionals (ASIP)

The largest spirit trade association in the world, ASIP features more than 100 participating countries internationally. Among its members are educational organizations, suppliers, publications, competition organizers, safety organizations and gym owner groups. This large-scale organization represents an August 2011 merger between Organization of Spirit Industry Providers (OSIP) and the Spirit Industry Trade Association (SITA).

Website: http://spiritindustry.com/membership/asip-members/

ASGA

All-Star Gym Association (ASGA)

The ASGA was founded in 2012 to give new voice to gym owners and coaches through “democracy, transparency and free market.” A major part of its mission is to lower overall cost for athletes and increase economic viability for gym owners. It takes an active stance on industry issues, and in spring 2012, published the results of its membership survey on the new USASF rules changes. The organization’s first “Town Hall Meeting” was held in April 2012 in Lake Buena Vista, FL.

Website: http://www.allstargymassociation.org

ASGA: We Want Answers!

ASGA: We Want Answers!

Between Tate Chalk’s take-no-prisoners talk and the organization’s open letter to the USASF, the All-Star Gym Association (ASGA) is making its voice heard—and many cheer professionals are listening. In its open letter, the ASGA put USASF on the hot seat on a number of its concerns, specifically:

· Tax structure: ASGA inquires as to the current tax structure of the USASF, citing the prospect of mandated athlete membership as the main area of concern. Reads the letter: “Gym owners would like a transparent view of spending and expenses so as to be the best stewards of our customers’ fees.”

· STUNT: The ASGA also asks for more information about the STUNT movement, where it stands in the bigger picture and its potential ramifications on all-star cheerleading. Reads the letter: “Who from within our leadership is in charge of safeguarding the interests of our businesses and will be responsible for prioritizing all-star cheerleading within the umbrella of other cheer-related activities?”

· Board of Directors: In the letter, the ASGA requests an “immediate, open election” of the Board of Directors and President, along with access to board meeting minutes and financial statements. The letter also poses questions about the USASF’s financial and professional ties to Varsity, with an emphasis on moving toward independence.

· Athlete Membership Fees: If and when mandatory athlete membership is introduced, the ASGA wants to know which USASF programs and expenses will be supported by the funds. Another potential concern is the privacy and confidentiality of athletes’ personal information captured in the USASF client database.

It’s only a matter of time until the USASF responds, and if ASGA has its way, they’ll get answers by October 12th (as requested in the letter). That’s just a few days away…and we’ll keep you posted as to what transpires.